Slayer – Decade of Aggression

3 out of 5

Produced by: Rick Rubin

Label: Def American

This is exactly what a live album should be: to the frikkin’ point, offering a varied sampling of the artist of to that time, and, y’know, recorded in a manner that befits an official release.  If you had any doubts that Slayer was capable of their monstrous menace in a live setting, let the continual onslaught of pure thrash, vicious Tom Araya vocals, Lombardo time-switch-on-a-dime drumming, and 90 minutes of energy convince you forevermore.  Producer Rick Rubin and mixer Brendan O’Brien – as has been positively noted in every review – did their due diligence to make three separate live shows sound consistent, and the levels are right up their with what you could expect on album.  I’m also not a big fan of chatter, live or recorded-live, or unnecessary fan reaction (i.e. just give me the darn music already), and the set is boiled down to its essentials: some growly intros, allowing the uproar after a particularly pummeling closing, but otherwise: music, baby.  And the set ranges from, as suggested, the previous near-decade of their Lombardo-era works, giving you a good dose of Slayer-defined thrash and their more sludgey metal.

Now, live albums almost always receive an instant docking from me, simply because I don’t quite get the live-for-live’s-sake concept; if it’s an album conceived of as a live show, then yes, and/or if you alter something substantially for the performance, then it makes sense, but otherwise, if it sounds the same on an album I already have…

I can definitely still appreciate what amounts to a worthwhile greatest hits set, which is sort of what we have here, though that’s where I’d add a further exception: that I don’t quite view – in my limited exposure – Slayer as a singles band.  That is: I can hear a song in isolation and recognize that it rocks, but, regardless of one’s opinion on the group’s lyrical focus, their albums do tend to have a theme or vibe that energizes the thing.  Those singles take on new shape in context, and this live experience lacks that.  It’s a whole bunch of impressive music, played with gusto, but to the first point, it doesn’t vary too much from the studio stuff, and to the second point, individual songs tend to blend together without like-minded tracks to prop them up.

If you have good Slayer live memories to relive, I imagine this does the trick.  Elsewise, a quality recording, but I’ll likely stick to my albums.